Work in progress to build out global services sector

Work in progress to build out global services sector

Friday, August 23, 2019

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WORK is advancing under the project being implemented by Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro) to further build out the country's global services sector (GSS).

The five-year Skills Development for Global Services project is focused on upskilling and preparing individuals working in the sector, more commonly associated with business process outsourcing activities, for higher-end jobs in areas such as information technology-enabled services, knowledge process outsourcing, and legal process outsourcing.

It is anticipated that further GSS expansion in Jamaica will generate a significant number of additional jobs, while repositioning Jamaica to capture a greater percentage of the global market in the higher value added segments.

To this end, the project is intended to strengthen Jamaica's institutional capacity to attract new GSS investments.

This is expected to bolster Jamaica's engagement in the fourth industrial revolution — Industry 4.0 — which is characterised by engagements and inputs such as robotic process automation, telemedicine, and smart home appliances.

An agreement for the initiative, being financed through Inter-American Development Bank loan support of US$15 million, was signed in January by Finance and the Public Service Minister Dr Nigel Clarke, and the IDB's Chief of Operations Adrianna La Valley.

Jampro President Diane Edwards tells JIS News that initial focus is being placed on establishing the project's support systems and governance structures.

Programme Director Marjorie Straw says these include: The establishment of the Project Execution Unit (PEU), which will work with Jampro to drive the initiative's overall implementation, and the Global Services Skills Board (GSSB), which will target strengthening of the skills development framework.

Straw tells JIS News that the unit, which she heads, will comprise a core operational team of nine people, inclusive of financial and procurement specialists, and a project assistant.

Additionally, she says the team will comprise technical specialists, among them a competitive fund manager who will spearhead a financing facility to provide the requisite resources to enable private sector stakeholders to assist in developing training proposals for the industry.

Another key, core technical specialist being recruited, Straw further informs, is a talent platform manager, who will drive the medium facilitating virtual engagement between employers and prospective employees.

“So, for the first time, we will have a virtual interface [so that] anyone going on to that platform will have a good indication of the latest industry trends [and] will be able to connect with employers to see what their needs are, as well as be able to have live chats and engagements with industry stakeholders,” the programme director outlines.

In addition, she says a skills development specialist has been contracted to serve as the key interface between the PEU, the GSSB and the wider industry.

“That person will actually be ensuring that the trends that we are seeing are actually reflected…working in collaboration with the GSSB [while] having a pulse on what youth are looking for, and striking the balance between what we can offer nationally and how well we can introduce the benefits of the project,” she notes.

Meanwhile, Straw says the GSSB, the first of its kind in the Caribbean, comprises mainly industry stakeholders from the private sector and representatives from the public sector.

It is chaired by former president of the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica, Yoni Epstein, who is also founder and chief executive officer of the multinational firm – itel bpo.

The other members include representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information; Port Authority of Jamaica; HEART Trust/NTA; Jamaica Computer Society; Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica; and one each from a large and small outsourcing company, and a software development entity.

“The board will focus on developing the mechanism for engaging employers more directly, will weigh in very directly on the talent requirements for the industry…and is expected to provide input into the training needs for the industry,” Straw outlines.

Additionally, she says its members will share their labour market intelligence and “influence” decisions relating to “how we can engage more young people to join the workforce, and share best practices on skills development and investment in capacity building”.

Other programmed engagements, Straw tells JIS News, include: Completion of terms of reference for the Career Pathway Framework, which she explains will serve as a road map that points persons to the various levels to which they can aspire, and outline the requirements for each tier.

She says the project will contract a firm, based on the response to the request for proposals that was issued, to enhance the job readiness curricula which will include the development of a digital skills curriculum, noting that this will be a first in the Caribbean.

“The project will train 1,000 trainers, through an arrangement with HEART Trust/NTA and the Vocational Training and Development Institute, to impart information in [the digital skills curriculum] effectively,” she adds.

Edwards tells JIS News that this undertaking, coupled with the establishment of the smart talent platform, will focus on enhancing the sustainability of the sector's skills development capacity for the future.

“This is expected to be a dynamic, ongoing process where young people will start to see the digital sector… a subset of the global services sector… as an employment opportunity, and what their career pathway can be through that. So, they can look at the pathways and direct their skills accordingly,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Straw says a comprehensive digital global services strategy is also being developed for execution over the project's five-year timeline.

Describing this as a “very key element”, she explains that it will focus on the sector's various pillars, infrastructure and the overall ecosystem, adding that it will be underpinning a lot of the work to be done, “even beyond the life of the project”.

Another key activity, Edwards informs, is the establishment of an incubator which will serve to kick-start business operations.

“What that means is that you can come into the system and you don't have to immediately go into a long-term lease of property. You can operate on a pilot basis and, from there, move into your own long-term space,” she explains.

The Jampro president says the concept has been employed with good effect in Montego Bay by the Port Authority of Jamaica, adding that a similar undertaking is being pursued in Kingston.

Meanwhile, Edwards notes that one of the groundbreaking aspects of the project is the direct relationship that it will forge between market demand and educational institutions involved in delivering training.

“A lot of our educational institutions have [developed] with a philosophy that we will turn out people in a range of disciplines…but the link with the job market has not been very direct and very organic. So, we have not done what a lot of countries, successful in economic development, have done, which is to say what are the trends in the market…what sort of jobs will the industry require in three, five, 10 years… and how can we train people to fulfil those needs,” she explains.

“What the Global Services Skills Board is going to do is exactly that…bring the private sector together with the public educational institutions and say 'look, these are our needs; so don't just train people because you want to train them…train them for these job opportunities',” Edwards adds.

She emphasises that this will be critical in helping Jamaica to stem the brain drain, where highly trained and skilled professionals seek external opportunities.

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